9. Avoid being a prankster. Every office has one and every once in a while things go terribly wrong. There are some legendary pranks like taking one CEO’s Ferrari apart and then reassembling it in his office. I’m still a little bit awed about that one; and if you are part of a team of top engineers in the company you might get away with it, if you are a first year employee and you even scratch said Ferrari you’ll likely be toast. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone being escorted off campus saying something to the effect of, “it was just a prank.”
10. Don’t bet you are irreplaceable. A really common mistake I’ve seen particularly in younger employees is believing they are irreplaceable. It is a bad mindset because you begin to think you can get away with anything and you will almost always find that you can’t. If you continue to believe you can always be replaced, which is true, you are less likely to do something that will force you to be proven wrong.
11. Don’t lie to get time off. There is a common question that flows through some of the advice networks and it goes something like, “I told my boss x to get time off and now he wants proof, what should I do?” You should likely get your resume ready because you can get fired for that, but, almost as bad is you’ll lose his or her trust and generally that means you’ll be managed out of the company.
12. Make sure you know what management thinks about the job you are doing. Here is another story about an early Facebook employee who thought he was doing a great job only to find his bosses thought he was dead weight. Think about how wealthy he’d be had he not been fired and he loved the job (mostly). I know a lot of folks get through school with cheating and sliding, but get a great job anyway. However, in the ‘real world,’ there are lots of folks that likely either want your job or want you out of the way so if you aren’t contributing they’ll get you gone.
13. Don’t be abusive. Not only do people document abuse and report it, but often abuse escalates into violence. I also would add, do not tolerate it either. If someone is being abusive to you make sure you use appropriate channels to document and report it. The one violent incident that I was almost in the middle of myself was when an abusive husband showed up at work with a shotgun intending to kill the manager and the head of HR. (I was interviewing for that same HR job, needless to say I didn’t take it). Some folks learn bullying in school and some learn to tolerate it, neither is good long term, and the former could do more than get you fired.
14. Don’t speak for your company unless that is your job. One of the quickest ways to get fired is to step into some PR mess with guns blazing thinking you are protecting the firm only to find that this is marketing and/or communications’ job and that they have no sense of humor. You might just get a warning, but if things get heated and you say the wrong thing, you can also get fired. Generally social media is really dangerous so use it with caution. There are lots of stories about people being fired for inappropriate posts.
15. If your head says “I probably shouldn’t say/do this” then don’t. Most of all of this comes down to someone acting before thinking and then regretting it after. You spent a lot of years working to get where you are, the simple act of thinking before acting could allow you to not show up on a list like this as an example of what not to do.
Now the issue for most young people coming into their first job is that the folks that are most likely to read or listen to this are the folks least likely to need it, and the folks who basically hear “blah, blah, blah” are the ones showing up in a future list like this. I would argue that the latter group aren’t mature enough to have a good job yet and that just reading through a list like this would be a good interview tool. If they tune you out, then maybe it would be better if they worked someplace else and become someone else’s problem.
It’s easy to get fired, so be smart and think first
It is surprisingly easy to get fired but, as a manager, the paperwork is a pain in the butt and having to do it reflects on your hiring/management skills badly. As a parent, your fired child may return as a dependent making all those sacrifices you made to put them through school largely wasted. Spending time to either make sure you don’t hire someone likely to make these mistakes, and/or making sure they actually don’t, could go a long way to both assuring your own career and peace of mind. Not to mention it also serves as a reminder to experienced executives who make these same errors with similar results.
One final thought, when I was younger, one of the ways I got convinced not to do something illegal was to actually visit a jail. Maybe part of every young person’s education should be to watch someone get fired. The embarrassment, loss of self-worth, and depression that follows can be incredibly painful and, observing it, may drive home the point that avoiding that outcome is a worthy goal.